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The Lion King
1994 Original

2001 Bootleg

2003 Special Edition

Score Composed, Arranged, and Co-Produced by:
Hans Zimmer

Co-Produced by:
Jay Rifkin
Mark Mancina
Chris Thomas

Conducted by:
Nick Glennie-Smith

Orchestrated by:
Bruce Fowler
Nick Glennie-Smith

Songs Composed by:
Elton John
Tim Rice

Walt Disney Records

Release Date:
May 31st, 1994

Also See:
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast
The Prince of Egypt
The Road to El Dorado

Audio Clips:
1994 Album:

1. Circle of Life (0:35):
WMA (224K)  MP3 (277K)
Real Audio (172K)

6. This Land (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

8. Under the Stars (0:29):
WMA (184K)  MP3 (224K)
Real Audio (139K)

9. King of Pride Rock (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

The original album was a regular U.S. release in 1994. It fell out of print in the late 1990's. The 2003 Special Edition is a regular U.S. release. The various bootlegs began appearing on the secondary online markets in the late 1990's, but solidified in content and quantity in the early 2000's.

  The song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and the score both won Academy Awards and Golden Globes. That song was also nominated for a Grammy Award, and the songs "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata" were nominated for Academy Awards as well. The song "Circle of Life" was also nominated for a Golden Globe and a Grammy Award. The score was nominated for a BAFTA Award and a Grammy Award.

The Lion King
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Buy it... on Disney's commercial album if the songs performed by the cast and Elton John are your favorite parts of the film's music.

Avoid it... on the various bootlegs if you expect all of the gorgeous portions of the score neglected from the commercial album to be provided in satisfying sound quality.

The Lion King: (Hans Zimmer/Elton John) The dominance of Walt Disney Pictures over its competitors could not have been any more evident than in 1994, when The Lion King proved that its success within the animated genre was not limited to the Alan Menken phenomenon. The series of Menken projects would continue to run its course for Disney, though composer Hans Zimmer and songwriter/performer Elton John would defect to Dreamworks for a few attempts to muster the same success later in the decade. The realm of Zimmer's Media Ventures music production house would be tapped quite often for animated pictures in the next ten years, some yielding great results. While their collective work for The Lion King exceeded the popularity of all the later Menken/Disney collaborations, however, it proved to be somewhat of a one-hit wonder given subsequent efforts' expectations. Despite their own unique qualities, The Prince of Egypt and (especially) The Road to El Dorado weren't as infectious to the mainstream as The Lion King, which has spawned several sequels and a Broadway production. The film would also mark the high point in the animated genre for both Zimmer and John, though the famed singer receives most of the credit for the music's popularity. John's songs are indeed quite catchy. Of the five that he composed for the film, only one would be performed himself for the end titles of the film. Two additional performances would help drive album sales. The ensemble and individual cast performances of those songs, however, would be far more entertaining for those who loved the film, because the vocal and instrumental arrangements of those songs fit perfectly with the tone of the remainder of Zimmer's score. This continuity is one of the strongest aspects of the music for The Lion King. The cast vocals themselves are a hit and miss prospect; bless Jeremy Irons for his deep, snarling voice, but he simply can't sing. The same argument could be made about Rowan Atkinson, too. But the arrangement of each piece places the performers against the same bass-heavy, robust African sound that defines the entire score, and this ambience saves most of the songs and is brilliant in "Circle of Life."

Both John and Zimmer would win Academy Awards for their efforts on The Lion King, and while many more classically-inclined film score fans have disagreed with Zimmer's win over Thomas Newman and Alan Silvestri that year, this score does remain one of Zimmer's best and most popular. Its impact in the film is resounding in its majestic and beautiful instrumental accompaniment to the story's spiritual elements. It was the score that featured the composer's maturation in terms of combining weighty choirs with broad and heavy bass. This sound would be given a flighty personality with Richard Harvey's absolutely gorgeous pan pipe solos throughout the score (in fact, it could be said that Harvey's contribution alone provides the grace that catapulted this score's effectiveness... Harvey's woodwind performances for famous scores are better known than his own often impressive compositional work for films and television). Zimmer collectors would hear the ultimate, masculine variant for mostly synthesizer and choir in the following year's Crimson Tide. Ethnically, Zimmer turned to friend Lebo M. to help arrange the vocalizations in the score and song backgrounds that provide the African tilt to the score, though the more interesting aspect of the ethnicity of The Lion King is that Zimmer did the same thing that Menken and Howard Ashman did for The Little Mermaid: they spiced up the playful moments with a stylish calypso spirit. Embodied in the rhythmic movement of Simba's romps and a generous serving of rich percussion, this style extends as well to the pan pipes (if Harvey's performances in the middle of "Plotting" don't make your butt wiggle, then check your pulse). While seemingly incongruous on paper, Zimmer pulls it off and the score benefits from a bright, bouncy personality in its better half. The action music in The Lion King relies heavily on the texture of the choir, chanting and shrieking during the scene of Mufasa's death and occasionally bursting forth with sudden accents that would reappear in Gladiator. Impressive rhythmic power of the likes of Backdraft highlight the score's final presentation of the "Ascension" theme (alternately for Simba and his father) at the closing of the film, with an intelligent reprise of "Circle of Life" leading to a short reprise of Simba's primary theme over the start of the end credits.

The problem any reviewer has when trying to analyze the score for The Lion King, unfortunately, is that no satisfying album presentation of the music has ever existed. Zimmer has a tendency to remix and rearrange his music into album suites, thus forcing fans to seek the bootleg market when trying to find the mixes and cuts that actually made the film. Usually, this habit doesn't present too much of a problem, but with The Lion King, the vast majority of material recorded for the project (whether it was used in the film or not) was neglected on Disney's commercial product. That album contains 30 minutes of songs and 17 minutes of score, a surprisingly backwards ratio compared to other Disney product offerings for their popular musicals of the era. Granted, the arrangement provided for the album will suffice for the half of the market that wasn't interested in the score to begin with, but significant demand exists for more of Zimmer's work. Disney has always maintained that releasing additional score wouldn't be profitable enough for them, only including an extra cast song and a John remix for the "Special Edition" album that coincided with the film's DVD blitz in 2003. Generally, Zimmer fans have little to fear about such situations, because Media Ventures/Remote Control is notorious for leaking material to the secondary collector's market (anytime you get so many people involved in so many projects, album-quality copies of the recording sessions are bound to walk out of the building). But The Lion King, to varying degrees, has been a curious exception to that norm. The bootleg market for the score has always been very active, leading to a wide range of fan-created albums that vary greatly in quality and arrangement. To understand why this discrepancy exists, all you have to do is look at the variety of sources of the original material. The most widely available extra track came in the form of "Hyenas," which was included on international commercial releases of Disney's album. The Hans Zimmer/Mark Mancina collaboration promotional CDs, titled "Follow your Dreams," also included some extra tracks, though two of these were simply the "Circle of Life" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" song arrangements without the cast vocals. These two tracks are very highly recommended to fans of the score, for they expose some of the masterful production work on the underlying instrumental accompaniment to those songs.

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Supposed promotional albums ranging from 55 to 60 minutes in length floated about the market in the early days; regardless of whether these albums were indeed Academy promos, they did serve as the basis for the bootlegs that would follow. Those bootlegs would add cues directly from the recording sessions, including several alternative takes and cues that would be cut from the film (including Zimmer's original "Circle of Life" score track before it was replaced by the song, which still uses Zimmer's theme as its interlude). Unfortunately, the additional material that would bring the bootlegs up to the 80-minute limit of a CD would feature terrible mono sound. Several theories exist as to why these cues are so atrocious in quality, but whatever the real reason, all of the bootlegs (regardless of their arrangement) will have sound quality that jumps around as wildly as the animals in the film. Some of it --the parts purposefully leaked-- sounds great. Others are intolerable. Even as such, though, fans of the score will want to investigate the bootleg for, at the very least, an extension of the material highlighted by Harvey's pan pipes. The consecutive tracks "The Once and Future King" and "Plotting" are both crystal clear in quality and, along with the inspirational "Kings of the Past," are necessary additions to the score. The sound quality of "Pinned Again/Reunion," the film version of "Under the Stars," and "Simba Alive" is poor, but they are worthy and impressive cues. Zimmer's respectfully pretty choral work in "This is My Home" is another highlight, and although the quality of sound in the film version of the finale is only halfway decent, it's a notable inclusion. One of the more intriguing side-stories of all the album releases for The Lion King is that the music in the film is about 5 to 10% faster than it is on the albums; this practice isn't unusual, but it's particularly noticeable in this score for some reason (especially for the hardcore fans of the film). Overall, The Lion King is one of Hans Zimmer's more dynamic scores, defining a sound that many fans wish would have continued if Zimmer had chosen to maintain a solo career. The commercial album will suffice for many listeners, and consult with the notes section of this review to learn about how the bootleg's different sequences were rearranged originally for Disney's presentation. A beautiful score, but a sadly neglected one as well. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Hans Zimmer reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3 (in 87 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.02 (in 262,782 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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 Track Listings (1994 Commercial Album): Total Time: 46:27

• 1. Circle of Life - performed by Carmen Twillie and Lebo M (3:58)
• 2. I Just Can't Wait to Be King - performed by Jason Weaver, Rowan Atkinson, and Laura Williams (2:49)
• 3. Be Prepared - performed by Jeremy Irons (3:38)
• 4. Hakuna Matata - performed by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella (3:31)
• 5. Can You Feel the Love Tonight - performed by Joseph Williams and Sally Dworsky (2:56)
• 6. This Land* (2:53)
• 7. ...To Die For* (4:16)
• 8. Under the Stars* (3:43)
• 9. King of Pride Rock* (5:57)
• 10. Circle of Life - performed by Elton John (4:50)
• 11. I Just Can't Wait to Be King - performed by Elton John (3:35)
• 12. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (End Title) - performed by Elton John (3:59)

* score track composed by Hans Zimmer
(track lengths not provided on packaging)

 Track Listings (2001 Bootleg): Total Time: 79:43

• 1. Circle of Life (3:59)
• 2. Life Isn't Fair, Is It? (0:58)
• 3. The Once and Future King (3:23)
• 4. Plotting (4:24)
• 5. The Elephant Graveyard (5:15)
• 6. Kings of the Past (2:32)
• 7. Hyenas (2:29)
• 8. Stampede (3:40)
• 9. ...To Die For (1:19)
• 10. What Have You Done?/Run Away (3:48)
• 11. Alternate 1 (3:44)
• 12. A New Era/Bowling for Buzzards (1:52)
• 13. On Our Side/Simba Awakens (0:38)
• 14. Under the Stars/Simba Alive (3:15)
• 15. Hunting/Pinned Again/Reunion (4:45)
• 16. Alternate 2 (2:57)
• 17. An Argument/You're Mufasa's Boy/Remember (8:39)
• 18. This is My Home (2:44)
• 19. The Return/Battle of Pride Rock/Cleansing Rain/The Ascension/End Credits (12:44)
• 20. Alternate 3 (2:55)
• 21. Alternate 4 (3:45)

(sample track listing; bootleg contents vary widely)

 Track Listings (2003 Special Edition): Total Time: 51:47

• 1. Circle of Life - performed by Carmen Twillie and Lebo M (3:58)
• 2. I Just Can't Wait to Be King - performed by Jason Weaver, Rowan Atkinson, and Laura Williams (2:49)
• 3. Be Prepared - performed by Jeremy Irons (3:38)
• 4. Hakuna Matata - performed by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella (3:31)
• 5. Can You Feel the Love Tonight - performed by Joseph Williams and Sally Dworsky (2:56)
• 6. The Morning Report - performed by James Earl Jones, Jeff Bennett and Evan Saucedo (1:34)
• 7. This Land* (2:53)
• 8. ...To Die For* (4:16)
• 9. Under the Stars* (3:43)
• 10. King of Pride Rock* (5:57)
• 11. Circle of Life - performed by Elton John (4:50)
• 12. I Just Can't Wait to Be King - performed by Elton John (3:35)
• 13. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (End Title) - performed by Elton John (3:59)
• 14. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (Remix) - performed by Elton John (4:08)

* score track composed by Hans Zimmer

 Notes and Quotes:  

The inserts of the two commercial albums contain lyrics and extensive credits, but no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Lion King are Copyright © 1994, Walt Disney Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/24/96 and last updated 1/17/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.